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Saturday, January 29

Four years in 

this is an audio post - click to play

Reflections on being in the Copper Country for four years en route to the Perkins restaurant parking lot. I moved to Hancock on Jan. 28, 2001.


Friday, January 28

For the love of Mike... 

So I just recommended for most people in my age and tax bracket to get taxes done quickly, easily and -- best of all -- free. Alas, I start my tax return and this message tells me that my browser (Mozilla 1.2) isn't supported. At the same time, there were several things about this message that confounded me.

First of all, you can't say "Mac OS 9.0 or higher" when the browsers you support don't work in Mac OS 9.0. Second of all, AOL for Mac OS X? You guys don't support Firefox or Mozilla, but you support AOL as well as Mozilla's commercial cousin Netscape 7.x? Something's rotten in Denmark.

It's true I'm using an older version of Mozilla on an old version of Mac OS (9.2.2), but I generally don't have a problem with browser support. After all, my version of Mozilla is still pretty standards-compliant.

Oh well, I still like the service so I'll probably try and find a Mac OS X computer, *sigh* use a Windows-compatible PC or go back to H&R Block's rival service. As a quick aside, here's the IRS page for free online tax filing. Good stuff.

The tax man cometh 

Every year, I'm the one in the office encouraging my fellow co-workers (who are all about the same age as I) to get their taxes done. I print out forms, visit Web sites and basically help them get it done before the big April 15. This year, I don't have an office and most of my co-workers have left so I'm going to help everyone on my blog.

I know that April 15 seems like an eternity away, but it'll be here soon enough. If you'd rather be a Ned Flanders and get your taxes done early (but maybe not on January 1), the State Tax Freedom Web site is a great place to go.

That link is to the State TurboTax Tax Freedom Web site which includes a quick test to see if you're eligible to file your state taxes for free (as well as your personal federal return). Essentially if you're earning less than $35,500 a year, there's no reason why you shouldn't use this site for free.

This is a slightly different site than the main Tax Freedom site which essentially buries the fact that you can process and file state taxes for free in many states (including Michigan, Idaho and 17 other states). Hopefully, the link to the State Tax Freedom site will save some confusion and hunting and pecking.

Going through TurboTax's online program is quick, thorough, and easy as pie. I've personally filed online for free since I started doing my own taxes back in 2002.

Still, things haven't been the same since Intuit discontinued Mac-in-Tax. I'm just kidding, I never used that program. It's just fun to say. ;)

Sweet anti-spam tool to stick it to spammers 

Finally, there's some technology that automatically gets spammers about as quickly as they get us. I'm extremely fascinated by Project Honey Pot as detailed by the Detroit Free Press's Mike Wendland in Sweet new weapon enters war on spam (Published Jan. 28).

One of the easiest ways that spammers can harvest e-mail addresses is by skimming Web sites looking for fully formed e-mail addresses (i.e. The easiest way to avoid that is to not use the atmark (@), but a lot of people still write out their e-mail address. (I don't, BTW. My address on this site is formatted as ryan -at-

Well, Wendland describes as project that will include some dummy code that the automated e-mail harvesters would trip over. As I understand it, an automated harvester who tries to send an e-mail to the fake address in the code will get their computer knocked off the e-mail network. It doesn't necessarily stop them, but it makes things harder for them.

Wendland's tripped up a dozen harvesters so far. It sounds really good, but I wonder how quickly the savvy spammers will come up with a workaround (as they almost always do). It's a "war" out there.


Thursday, January 27

Chilly indoor conditions 

It's been very cold in my apartment over the past couple days. My feet get so cold (even right next to the heating duct) that I'm wearing my shoes in the house.

It's a puzzlement why things would be so cold. All right, it's currently 8 degrees outside right now and I've got the thermostat at 56 degrees. I'd turn it up, but I feel so bad for my landlords (who are elderly). I get such a deal in rent, I want to help out in some other ways and that includes not turning the thermostat too high.

Anyway, during the winter, I like to leave my bottles of soda on the floor by the door. It's cool enough to keep the drink chilled but not frozen like when I leave it in my fridge.


Monday, January 24

Weird happenings 

I've been battling with my iMac sound cutting out at weird times. I could have iTunes playing something perfectly normally, and then my computer's built-in speakers just stop playing. My iSub continues playing just fine in the meantime.

It gets weirder when I open the Sound control panel and tinker with the settings. I can get the main sound back for a while, but it'll eventually cut out again. Just freaky.

BTW, did you ever notice that Apple likes to append a lower-case "i" to the products they sell? For example, iPod, iBook, iWork, etc. You'd almost think that was intentional or something. ;)


Sunday, January 23

Silence is golden 

Things are pretty quiet around here. I haven't spoken to anyone in person in more than a day and a half. Sure, I've talked to people online, but I just haven't ventured outside to chat with others.

I'm going to remedy that in a few minutes, but I just thought it interesting that I could go so long without talking.


Saturday, January 22

TV Notes 

I was fascinated by tonight's episode of Scientific American Frontiers. Host Alan Alda followed up on several people who undertook several techniques to lose weight. It was very interesting to see how some coped with different types of weight-loss surgery. While stomach stapling is the most popular surgery, there were some interesting other ways to medically aid dieters.

I think that's a big difference between commercial TV and PBS. Commercial shows, like talk show Maury Povich, love to show people who are excessively overweight. Maury likes to showcase chubby kids when he's not trying to find out the fathers of other children. PBS, and some commercial news programs, can provide some insight into these conditions.

Nova is focusing on the history of the Concorde (in the episode "Supersonic Dream"). Amazing to think that we had a commercial SST airplane that could fly a mile every three seconds.

Note -- I saw Desperate Housewives for the first time. Interesting show, but I didn't think it was as "scandalous" as some make it out to be. Am I the only who thinks the disembodied voice of the narrator is akin to the one in sci-fi series The Outer Limits?

I know, in the case of Desperate Housewives, the narrator is the wife who apparently committed suicide at the series premiere.

Time to tidy up 

Well, now that I'm back in Michigan, it's time to hunker down and get some real work around the house. I've already gone through a lot of magazines, old clothes, old Gazettes, etc.

Still there's a lot of stuff that I have to go through and cleaning to be done. High on my list is rooting through all the newspapers I've accumulated over the past few months. I can't bear to separate from them without at least skimming through them. I'll probably keep notes so I can refer to them at some point while recycling them.

Anyway, life goes on.

Rooting around 

There's a discussion going on at TrekBBS about the contents of people's wallets. The thread was entitled "What's in your wallet?" like the Capital One credit card commercials.

I cleaned my wallet out last August, but I've still got a bit of clutter. Here's what's inside:

* Michigan driver's license
* MetroCard (one-day pass to use NYC mass transit)
* SmarTrip card (electronic pass to use Washington DC Metro mass transit and parking lots)
* San Diego City Library card (with SD County Library sticker). Long expired.
* Blockbuster Rewards card
* First Class Phone Card (U.S. Poster Service/AT&T phone card)
* Wells Fargo cards
* Bank of America card
* University at Buffalo Library Work Station Access Card (to access UB library computers)
* A mini-map of Washington DC from Knight-Ridder (a media company)
* A business card for a Wells Fargo personal banker
* Holiday Station Stores Milk Club card (Buy 12 gallons, get one free). Only bought one so far.
* Directions to get to a friend's mother's house in Elkhart, Ind.
* A piece of scrap paper with an e-mail address of Hancock's photographer on it.
* Certificate of no-fault insurance from State Farm. Expired last Sept.
* Ticket to attend opening reception of Unity 2004 at Union Station in DC on Aug. 4. Unity was a convention for journalists of color.
* Business card for a Philadelphia school official that I met at the Unity reception.
* Punched MARC rail ticket (although it says Amtrak) to travel from BWI Airport outside Baltimore, Md. to DC's Union Station. Used on 4 Aug 2004.
* Dental insurance card. No good.
* Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurance card. Again, no good.
* State Farm car insurance card. Expired in 2002.

There's lots of memories in my wallet. Much like my dwelling and life itself.

So what's in your wallet?


Friday, January 21

Inauguration Day 

HANCOCK, Mich. -- I don't know why this has happened, but I've been on the road for President George W. Bush's two inaugurations. The first time was in 2001 when I was traveling from Poway to Hancock to start work at The Daily Mining Gazette.

This week, I was driving across the Upper Peninsula heading back to Hancock after an extended trip. I got to visit Virginia, DC, New York, friends in Connecticut and Toronto. All-in-all, it was a good trip.

I listened to Bush's inaugural speech yesterday over Central Michigan University's radio network. Throughout the entire speech, I was thinking that the message of the speech was "Do as I say, not as I do." Still, we do live in interesting times.


Tuesday, January 18

What's all this? 

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Apparently, the servers at the University of California, San Diego hosting alumni data has been hacked again. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, this is the third time the servers containing personal data have been hacked in the past few months. Officials were quick to say that this breach was a minor one quickly resolved, but three intrusions doesn't sound awesome (even if the first big one was just a hacker using the server to host warez or movies or something).

I'm happy that a recent credit check showed my info. to be safe, but geez, maybe they should switch their server platforms to Mac OS X Server. ;)


Monday, January 17

Different shows for different folks 

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. -- I haven't forgotten all the little things I was going to write before, but I just was thinking about the different TV shows I watch with my friends. One group of friends I watch BBC's The Office with and others it's Coupling.

Interesting that people have different viewing interests and yet I can share them with others. Just thinking out loud, something I do a lot from time to time.

Edit -- I also meant to add that very few of my friends want to watch science-fiction programming with me. This is especially evidenced when my friend says, "You can watch anything you want but Stargate."

It's sad, really. My sci-fi watching life is a solitary one. ;)


Wednesday, January 12

Deep Thoughts 

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The cult of Apple seems to be very strong in New York. The vast majority of headphones I see on the subway are iPod headphones and the SoHo Apple Store (two floors!) is packed to the gills. Speaking of Apple, I like their new product releases (the Mac Mini, the iPod Shuffle and iWork). However, that's at first glance. I'm sure I'll have a more informed opinion as time goes on.

There's so much to write about, but not enough time. So until I can correct this in future posts, here's some thoughts:

- Getting lost in cities.
- Obscure landmarks that only I'm really interested in.
- The irony when Rush Limbaugh says "The problem with listening to complainers is that you'll eventually become one."
- Roadside eats.
- Doing stuff for free in NYC.
- Why don't people put addresses clearly on buildings?
- Not enough time to do stuff.
- Getting places when they're closed.
- I'm sure there's stuff I'm missing.
- The Mac Mini -- The next low-cost Macintosh LC (generally pretty good) or the next Performa (astonishingly awful)?

More later.


Monday, January 10

The safe bet is no bet 

LYNCHBURG, Va. -- It's a really wonderful thing that I don't gamble very much. If I had money on this past weekend's NFL games, I would've been signing up for the poorhouse (or whatever anyone does at a poorhouse). I went oh-for-four on the weekend's four games.

It's true that I was rooting for my favorite teams (San Diego, Denver and Green Bay) to win, but San Diego and Green Bay was favored by many to win. Instead, with Seattle, they were all sent packing (probably not to the poorhouse).

It was an excruciating time to listen to these games on the radio driving down from Michigan. Oh well, that's why they play the games right? By the way, I'm picking Atlanta to lose all the way to the Super Bowl. ;)


Saturday, January 8

Turnover and take off 

It seems like I just got home and I'm taking off again for parts unknown. There's a ton of stuff that needs to be done around the house, but I'm basically just throwing my unpacked luggage back into the car and departing.

Good news is that the roads look clear and hopefully there may be opportunities in the path before me (or something like that).


Friday, January 7

21 hours to Hancock 

HANCOCK, Mich. -- Home again after being in motion for about 21 hours. I thought that digging out my car at Marquette Sawyer Airport and scooping my driveway after such a long day would've been a momentous task. It was surprisingly easy to dig out my car -- all the snow came right off my windows and there was no ice. I was able to easily unlock my car and open the door (instead of both being iced over). It was sweet.

Getting home wasn't bad as the roads were clear. Although there was a bit of snow in my parking spot, it was actually quite pleasant (despite some salty chunks of ice) and quite a pick-me-up after such a long day. My parking spot is interesting -- it's the furthest from where I can dump the snow, but it's sheltered from a lot of drifting snow too.

Memo to self: Don't start watching a movie after midnight if you've got to get up four hours later. D'oh!

More later, but my bed beckons for now and I won't resist its siren call.


Thursday, January 6

Heading back to the Great White North 

HOUSTON -- Well, after nearly two terrific weeks in sunny climate of San Diego, I'll be back in the snow-covered Copper Country in about 12 hours. In the next couple of days, I'll reflect on many of the fun things I got to do in San Diego and Poway including visiting the band, New Year's Eve, the family and getting frisked by the UCSD police.

Until then, here's just a couple of thoughts on the Houston-George Bush International Airport. First of all, the layout of this airport is as chaotic and hard to navigate as the Minneapolis and Detroit airports. The thing is those airports have tried to implement solutions to try and ease the flyers' travels through the terminals (through the use of trams). Despite a renovation, Houston doesn't seem to be going that route just yet with the fleet of mini-cars hauling some of the passengers through the concourses.

Secondly, there's only a handful of Internet terminals and wireless access is limited to the Presidents' Club. Again, with a recent renovation underway, adding wireless Internet to the airport would've been an easy amenity to provide. Oh well. The Neptune networks terminal that I'm writing this on is fast and responsive. However, with my right arm perched on top of the cash box and my neck craned to the right to read the LCD, it's not the most ergonomic. Still, I'm addicted and I need my fix.



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